From Vet Tech to Veterinarian: A Second Career Decision

I didn’t set out to be a 40-something-year-old vet student. It just sort of turned out that way.

Back in 2008, things were cruising along pretty much according to plan. I was married, with 4 kids, a nice house, and an overall pretty nice life. Things were . . . nice.

Then came the recession. And a divorce. And a foreclosure on the nice house.

As it turned out, 2008 was decidedly NOT nice.

I needed a new place to live, and I needed a way to help support the 6 people in our house. Until a couple of years before, I had been working as a registered veterinary technician. It wasn’t one of those “I really need the paycheck” jobs,” but rather an “I really need an outlet outside of small children” jobs. If you know, you know . . .

It was fortunate that my practice was looking to hire right then, so I stepped back into my role as surgery technician. While the circumstances were suboptimal, I have to say I enjoyed being back right away. I felt a sense of purpose and belonging that was awfully welcome after the emotional shit pinata I had recently endured.

The job was familiar, and comfortable. I could have done it forever. Except . . . There’s this thing about wages in veterinary medicine. And that thing is, they ain’t great. So I was looking at making a salary that would not allow me and my family to live with any kind of quality of life once the child support ran out. I mean, I just couldn’t see moving my mother, four kids, and the few animals we might have been able to keep into a 2- or 3-bedroom apartment.

So I was left with a decision: stay where I was and seriously downsize the living quarters, go for a specialty as a veterinary technician, or go all the way for a DVM. I just couldn’t live with the first option. And upon further inspection, the second one wasn’t going to produce enough of an income bump to make much difference.

So vet school, it was! I was excited about this new path. And more than a little scared.

Scared I was too old.

Scared I wouldn’t fit in.

Scared I wasn’t doing right by my kids.

Scared I wasn’t smart enough.

Scared I wouldn’t make it.

But I did. I worked my ass off, and I made it.

Not only did I get through vet school, but this year I bought my own practice! And that’s just the start. I plan to purchase one or two more in the next 5 years. After that, who knows??!?

If you are a non-traditional student thinking about vet school or, hell, ANY kinda school, message me. I got you.

Angela Hofmann is a small animal veterinarian practicing in North San Diego County. She graduated from St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine in 2015 at the age of 46. She recently bought her first practice, and plans to purchase more in the next few years.

Instagram: sandiegodvm